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On the Rail Ale Trail: best pubs on platforms

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That sinking feeling when you’ve just missed your train melts away once you’ve had your first sip of truly great ale at the station. Having hours between connections doesn’t seem quite as tedious when there’s a decent pub around.

While many stations do have bog standard, soulless pubs, there are plenty others which are full of character and serve a great range of beers and ciders. They’re so good that they’ve become destinations in themselves, with dedicated ale fans turning visiting the station pubs into an art form on their so-called Rail Ale Trails.

While we wouldn’t want to encourage anyone to drink more than they can handle, we do want to celebrate thriving independent pubs selling quality beer, especially with so many pubs closing every year.

Keep reading for our pick of the best platform pubs and let our map be your guide…

1. Railwayman’s Arms at Bridgnorth station

Old favourites are served alongside local surprises from nearby breweries in a listed station building. Ant Veal (who pens blogs for greatbeer.co.uk) recommends the Hobsons Best Bitter, a pale which he describes fondly as ‘wonderfully hoppy’. There’s plenty of rail memorabilia to check out while you enjoy your pint by the coal fire too. The only danger is getting a little too comfortable and missing your train!

2. The Real Ale Train

The ale experience carries on after you’re on board with the real ale trains (charmingly known as R.A.T). You’ll be offered real ales (sourced only from select local breweries) on a restored carriage pulled by a steam locomotive as you make your way from Alton to Alresford.

If journeys are about the getting there rather than the destination, this is the most fun way to get there we’ve seen!

3. The Halfway House near Edinburgh Waverley

If you have an hour or so to kill in Scotland’s capital, the Old Town near the station is full of restaurants and bars you could easily quench your thirst in. But for what’s been described as ‘Edinburgh’s smallest and friendliest pub’, head to the Halfway House on Fleshmarket Close. Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) have crowned it Edinburgh Pub of the Year for good reason: it packs in 4 changing ales into its tiny quarters which it sources from microbreweries around Scotland, and CAMRA members even get a 20% discount.

4. Railway Inn at Yorton

Housed in a former railway waiting room, this humble pub has been carefully looked after by the same family for over 70 years, and feels instantly welcoming when you step through its doors. You won’t find Top 40 hits on the radio, a noisy match on flat screen TVs or pretentious gastro cuisine, just good ales and a friendly environment.

5. Best for champagne: Searcys Champagne Bar at St Pancras London

If you’re in a celebratory mood, you can sip fine champagne’s at Europe’s longest champagne bar while waiting for your Eurostar train at St Pancras station in London.

While you won’t find a long list of ales here, it does have up to 30 glasses of champagne by the glass. And a call button at your seat if you need a re-fill. What better way to get a holiday started?

6. The Stalybridge Station Refreshment Rooms

Too many pubs are guilty of having predictable token ales (most likely Blue Moon) which never budges from the menu.

You won’t find that at the Stalybridge Buffet Bar on the popular trans-pennine route which has a long, revolving menu of ales and looks just like a carriage with its long, thin interior.

7. The Trackside at Bolton Street Station in Bury

Aptly named The Trackside, this pub has a roster of ever-changing beers which you can sup while sitting on the station platform so you can keep an eye on your train. However, the ales are so tasty here that you may wish to ‘accidentally on purpose’ miss yours!

8. The Head of Steam at Huddersfield

There always seems to be a festival on at this station pub (which also features on the Transpennine Real Ale Trail made famous by BBC programme Oz and James Drink to Britain). Whether it’s Irish beers to tie in with St Patricks Day, the Burns Night Festival earlier this year or a cider festival, there will always be something new to try.

And if the ales start to go to your head, steady yourself with the above-average pub grub here. The owners are clearly passionate about railways too: the pub houses a collection of railway memorabilia which train buffs will appreciate.

9. The Euston Tap and the Cider Tap near Euston train station, London

The owners have taken up residence in the surviving Western lodge of the Euston Arch just outside the station and have turned it into a destination for craft beer and real ale fans.
And it’s been such a roaring success that they’ve opened up a dedicated cider bar across the road featuring eight keg ciders, perry and five still ciders (including the delicious Pickled Pig served straight from its oak barrel). Worth a detour.

Want to find out more about pubs on platforms? Read a guide we’ve put together featuring everything you ever wanted to know about the Rail Ale Trail.

Now it’s over to you. Which railway pubs have you most enjoyed while waiting for a train? Do you agree with our tips? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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Comments

  1. The Sheffield Tap is another really good one (http://www.sheffieldtap.com) which has a door that leads directly onto Platform 1.

    Yes, I admit I deliberately missed a train to Lincoln to spend another hour here once…

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